a proposal for a EUROPEAN CHRISTIAN CONVENTION
For a common spirit of Europe – the European Christian Convention
Members Assembly May 23rd, 2017, Berlin
For about 70 years, the European continent has followed the explicit objective of contributing to the peaceful and just coexistence of people through political cooperation, economic cooperation and cultural exchange. The path has not always been straightforward and without conflict, but for the most part it has been supported by a shared commitment to human rights, democracy, rule of law and freedom of religion. Christian convictions of prominent individuals, churches, networks and Christian movements have always played an important role towards this aim in Europe. They have made a very diverse, and sometimes also controversial, contribution. Religious pluralism inside and beyond Christianity has been increasing since the days of the founding mothers and fathers of Europe. The role of Christianity has changed profoundly in many European societies. Nevertheless, churches and Christian movements are and remain an important part of Europe. Strengthening the diversity of Europe and at the same time building the common foundations of Europe – this basic orientation has hardly been questioned in decades past. Many opportunities for encounter have emerged, structures for cross-border cooperation have been established. Peace and economic prosperity have been achieved for many citizens. However, important questions of equity do remain high on the European agenda.
Today, however, the European project faces a profound crisis. The common vision, the need for cooperation in Europe, and support for European institutions and processes are being fundamentally called into question. Today’s issues such as migration, debt, climate change, growing inequality or poverty demand answers, and are also the subject of intense debate within churches and Christian communities. But not only that: there needs to be a comprehensive reflection on the basis and foundation of European cohesion. It is not only a question of the values that are central to European cohesion, but how we understand them and deal with each other in the face of disagreement. It is also the question of the Europe that we want as citizens and as Christians, and how we shape the process to arrive there.
The European project has emerged from experiences of conflict, in which, alongside many other factors, Christians were also involved. Reflecting on these experiences has made the Christian vision of peace, freedom and justice so important and helped stimulate the project of Europe. Today, peace and freedom on this continent are once again threatened by an increasing number of conflicts – and it is imperative to assume the responsibility based on our Christian conviction to contribute a Christian message and an ecumenical basis:
“We are convinced that the spiritual heritage of Christianity constitutes an empowering source of inspiration and enrichment for Europe. On the basis of our Christian faith, we work towards a humane, socially conscious Europe, in which human rights and the basic values of peace, justice, freedom, tolerance, participation and solidarity prevail” (Charta Oecumenica 7, 2001).
The vision of a European gathering of Christians
Against this background, we are developing a project for a large-scale European gathering of Christians. With our diverse national, cultural and social backgrounds, we see Europe as our common home. The plurality of our common basis of faith, the gospel, which we live out in different church traditions is an enrichment for us as Christians, as well as for Europe. We want to celebrate our religion together and share our traditions, experiences and hopes as well as exchanging the best of our theological reflections and share our contributions for Europe as Christian citizens. We want to offer this diversity, as well as our capacity for reconciliation and common action, within Europe; within our own communities and for our own reconciliation, but also for the European project. We commit ourselves to our responsibility to create a future for Europe as a whole and for the world. We advocate peace, freedom and well-being, compassion and solidarity. At this time of crises we want to contribute to the unity and responsibility of Europe in the world. Inspired by our Christian faith, we want to strengthen the structure of European society. We want to make visible the importance and diversity of Christian faith and to celebrate together.
Following intensive preparation, the project of a European Christian Convention is being supported by an association founded in 2016, with the aim of organizing an ecumenical gathering in 2022, 2023 or 2024. The Association, supported by a board and a members’ assembly, is ecumenical and invites, in all openness, all organizations, churches and networks to become members to contribute to the aim of such a European gathering.
Thematically, the aim of the meeting is to focus on areas that are central to and will advance the European project as well as Christianity in Europe. We are currently looking at three areas in which a European gathering could contribute:
• The question of the current state of ecumenism and how it might develop in Europe in churches, networks and institutions
• The question of the role of churches, networks and institutions at European level and their relationship to the political level when it comes to finding solutions to problems
• The question of the role of churches, networks and institutions and their understanding of their relationship to and role within European civil society
On the basis of specific issues, we will try to address these structural and strategic questions for the future of the churches and the future of Europe.
The format of a European Christian Convention
Since this is a pilot project, we still need to clarify the details of the event. The European Christian Convention Association is preparing an invitation for proposals to host the convention, which will include criteria for hosting and organizing as well as the application deadline for the selection process.
The event will have the following characteristics:
A large-scale participatory event
The event is organized ecumenically and open to all those who are interested, bringing together people from all over Europe and beyond. Participatory also means that the participants can propose themes and participate in the outcomes and statements.
A place to share spirituality and to share life together
The event is a place of encounter and of sharing different spiritual paths and the experiences we hold in common. Reading the Bible together, praying and singing are at the centre of our spirituality and therefore of central importance for this gathering. At the same time, we are seeking new forms of spirituality that we can share together.
A place of dialogue and consultation
The burning questions of our time, questions about the future of ecumenism and the future of Europe urgently need places where we can exchange perspectives, based on diversity and mutual respect, as well as the desire to develop solutions for the future that we can promote together and share with a much wider public. It is particularly important that the various Christian traditions, beliefs and worldviews of Europe can be brought together to contribute to a positive vision for Europe, in which we share Christian traditions as an important building block, to contribute to the creation of a vibrant, diverse, and democratic Europe based on solidarity. The European Christian Convention is a unique opportunity at least for encounter between Christian perspectives and European politics, business and non-governmental institutions.
A festival of art and culture
We encounter each other not only through words, but through music, theatre, and art as well as the wealth of the cultural life of our churches and organizations. There should also be space for new art and culture and new forms of artistic and cultural engagement using all the senses.
The board and member organisations of the ECC have been testing the water for the idea of such a large scale gathering. The number of organisations and churches which are supportive has been growing since. Now, is the time to set a clear timetable towards the first gathering.
We believe the decision where the first ECC is going to take place should be taken after an open tendering process. The call for applications should be opened until the end of 2017. Churches, Christian organisations and their networks are then invited to apply to host the first ECC until the end of 2018. The decision will be taken by a members’ assembly in the beginning of 2019.
The ECC itself shall take place not earlier than in spring 2022 and not later than autumn 2024.